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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death & Deliverance: By Michael Burleigh., 21 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Death and Deliverance (Paperback)
There are two distinct aspects of this book that may be considered disturbing to the general reader - the first is of course the intended subject of the book - that is the attempted eradication of Germany's psychologically and physically disabled people under Adolf Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) regime (1933-1945), and the author's natural political rightwing bias in his general commentaries. That is not to say that Burleigh supports or agrees with the Nazi extermination policies - he most definitely does not - but, nevertheless, persists in perpetuating what must be described as a sustained 'anti-leftist' rhetoric throughout his many historically based published works. As well as being an established British academic - even lecturing at Oxford for a time - Michael Burleigh is a regular comtributer to the rightwing Standpoint magazine, which in its first edition blamed 'Multiculturalism' for the demise of standards in Western civilisation.

The paperback (2002) edition contains 387 numbered pages, and apart from the cover photograph - which shows disabled people standing by a wire fence - contains no illustrations. This book contains an Introduction a four parts:

Part One: Saving Money, Spending Lives.
Part Two: Gods in White Coats.
Part Three: 'Euthanasia' and Racial Warfare.
Part Four: Aftermaths.

This book does not begin with the Nazi take-over of Germany in 1933, but rather begins its assessment of the treatment psychologically and physically disabled from 1900 and traces the development of the rightwing notion of 'euthanasia' from Adolf Jost - an Austrian psychologist who believed that disabled people, both as groups and as individuals, carried a negative impact upon society and that their removal (i.e.'killing') relieved society of that burden. This distorted thinking that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Europe's disabled was based upon the notion of 'vita mon jam vitalis' or 'life unworthy of life'. Burleigh makes clear that even during WWI (1914-1918), far more than would be considered 'statistically' normal perished in German psychiatric hospitals, assylums and sanitariums, etc. He further points out that 'euthanasia' as an idea was fairly popular amongst certain kinds of Darwinian thinkers throughout Europe, and that very few, if any, came forward to protect the weakest and most vulnerable members of society against the notion of physical eradication. For instance, during WWII (1939-1945) the Vichy government of France set about the extermination of its disabled citizenry without hindrance from any quarter.

The movement toward extermination began with rounding the disabled up into hospitals or camps. This first stage removed these people from contact with the general population. The second stage involved enforced sterilisation so that the risk of disabled off-spring was prevented at it source. However, the cost of keeping disabled people in concentration camps, and the cost of the operations became an issue of concern for the Nazi regime (hospitalising and sterilising pre-existed the Nazi regime coming to power), and as a consequence, Adolf Hitler authorised the mass extermination of disabled people as an enemy to the state. In hositals, the deaths were brought about by neglect, starvation, beatings and lethal injections - death certificates from the time invariably refer to 'heart failure' as the cause of death. The German parents were simply prevented from visiting the hospitals and were informed by letter of the death of their child. On occassion, and without the family's permission, crude autopsies were performed on the bodies of the deceased, many of whom were children. In the non-German areas 'liberated' by the Nazi military, the disabled were driven to isolated spots where mass graves had already be dug, and shot in the back of the head. Sometimes gas was used in mobile gas chambers.

Ironically, this book shows clearly what the political rightwing can achieve if left unchecked by correct-minded people. The book is well written and carries the reader through a chilling procedure of the eradication of the a group of people because they were considered racially unfit to live, and cost too much to sustain in concentration camps. The title 'Death and Deliverance' is a little peculiar and seems at odds with a book that contains lucid descriptions of the Nazi procedures of committing mass murder - but nowhere is there any notion of 'deliverance', as this holocaust of the disabled was total and unrelenting. Despite the obvious political bias of the author, this is a book that everyone should read, as its subject is a matter of historical fact and reveals moral degradation on an unimaginable scale.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Oct 2011 18:36:21 BDT
DEW1 says:
'Shocking revelations, an excellent guide to the contents of this book, and the book itself is a warning to us all, especially as the Western world continue to vote in far right-wing Governments, through the greed for the dollar or the pound,at the expense of the most vulnerable in our societies!'

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Oct 2011 19:06:09 BDT
Indeed. What has surprised many is the grounds for extermination lay firmly in an economic argument that advocated 'saving money', over 'caring' for vulnerable people. Yes - there was the ideology of racial purity - that is true, but German disabled people were presumably 'Aryan' by birth, but viewed by the Nazi regime as psychologically and physically deficient, nonetheless. This only highlights the irrationality of far-right racial theory(?), which, whilst on the one hand declares a group of people 'racially fit', and on the other is forced (by the limitations of its own argument) to declare at least some of this 'super' group to be in reality 'inferior' to their comrades. Burleigh's research demonstrates how the German disabled - although treated inhumanely - were dealt with through set procedures very different to those meted out to the non-German disabled. As you say, they is a disturbing parallel in contemporary politics, where rightwing governments continually cut the budget designed to look after the vulnerable in society, thus rendering these people subject to unequal and degrading treatment at the hands of a State whose declared creed is 'not to care'.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Nov 2011 09:44:13 GMT
Squeeth says:
An excellent review of the book and the writer (before he went completely bonkers).

Posted on 25 Dec 2011 20:33:33 GMT
Jade says:
It is interesting to know that a right wing political commentator has written about the disabled Holocaust of the 20th century, the policy of which is associated firmly with the right wing political agenda. This seems to have been a Europe-wide phenomenon, linked to the pseudo-science of eugenics. The disabled person, as a physical entity, is viewed as sub-normal and a burden to society. This denies the basic human dignity of people who happen to have a disability of some kind. It opens a whole new debate on what it is to be considered 'normal'.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Dec 2011 08:30:16 GMT
Squeeth says:
Only if you see 'right-wing' as a portmanteau term for societies which discriminate in their structures. See Wolf Wolfensberger for an explanation of the stereotypes inflicted on people who have disabilities.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Dec 2011 09:32:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Dec 2011 09:42:55 GMT
This is a very good example (Wolf Wolfensberger), and thank you for it. It is interesting to see that Wolfensberger, as a German national, spent his early youth within Hitler's Nazi (National Socialism) regime, before migrating to the USA. Despite this upbringing, (or, perhaps because of it), he learnt from an early age about what it is like to doscriminate against others, and to retain more or less complete political power whilst doing so. Whilst still young at the end of the war, perhaps the roots of compassion had been planted.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Dec 2011 09:43:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Dec 2011 09:59:41 GMT
Interesting. Of course, every political grouping, (even Socialists and Communists) can have a leftwing, a centre and a rightwing. In a strictly Marxian analysis, the use of the term 'rightwing' could be taken to mean any social structure created by the dominant bourgeois class, that seeks to create and maintain social inequality in favour of the individuals within rhe bourgeois class. The disabled people in such societies are often perceived as 'invalids', that is, they have no obvious, exploitable value within a Capitalist society. As exploitable value defines 'validity' within a Capitalist society, a person with a disability is considered to have 'no value' whatsoever, either to themselves, or to others. As it seems that there has never been a genuinely 'Communist' revolution (as Marx envisioned), the former Soviet Union, Communist China and North Korea, as State Capitalist enterprises, can be equally criticised for their unevolved attitudes toward disabled people.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Dec 2011 10:31:01 GMT
Squeeth says:
People who are disabled are not only less exploitable but need more resources for longer than other workers for longer so there is less incentive for the boss class to invest in them. The Stalinist Community Care Act explicitly makes people into commodities, to be traded with commercial organisations for the right to engross as many of the running costs of their services as possible, hence the scandal exposed by COMbbc every six months (it never admts that scandal is the foundation of human services that affect devalued people).

On the whole I think that any statist ideology is right wing because I only see quantitative differences between bourgeois liberalism, fascism and Stalinism. Only anarchism is left wing because it is anti-statist. In that matter, Marx and Engels got it back to front.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Dec 2011 11:34:28 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Dec 2011 11:50:44 GMT
Good points. The disabled, as group, where indeed viewed as 'too expensive' to maintain in Nazi Germany, with such required maintainence being considered a bad investment. Whilst keeping the disabled 'a live', the State receives nothing for its investment, because it does not appreciate the value of 'human existence', in all its varieties. Invariably, 'human existence', as a value, is defined in an idealised fashion that excludes all other variations from the benefits of its particular definition. Being defined as 'able-bodied', as opposed to 'disabled' is a case in point. Not everyone who is 'able-bodied', is able to perform all physical and mental tasks set, to the same level of efficiency or cleverness. Just so, not all 'disabled' people are 'unable' - and the conflating of the category 'disabled', with the discriminatory judgement of 'unable' is a major stumbling block. A person with one leg, may well out-perform a person with two legs, in virtually every activity, the problem is the assumption that as a disabled person requires more resources, (as you point out), they must automatically be deficient in some way. Again, another conflation.

Of course, Marx, whilst formulating his theory, inversed Hegel and agreed (initially) with with Feuerbach - essentially saying that mater, (or 'mind') creates 'spirit'. In other words. religion is created by humanity, and not the other way around. I know Marx argued continuously with Bakunin, who believed that the State should be automatically abolished. Marx disagreed, but did say that a future Communist existence would have no need for a State, but that a State is required (Socialistic) - to get 'there', although neither he, nor Engels ever actually defined what 'there' actually was. I know Lenin said that the poor and the oppressed should disengage themselves from those doing the oppressing - and not accept any help from them, including Welfare State provision. It is an interesting subject.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Dec 2011 18:31:45 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Dec 2011 18:32:24 GMT
Squeeth says:
Consider as well the baleful influence of 'less-eligibility' - a recipent of poor peoples' welfare cannot have the quality of life of a person who is rich so doesn't work. This is dressed up as 'no paid worker should be worse-off than a benefit claimant', a lie since the same principle doesn't operate on matters like inheritance, limited liability 'investment' and copyright.

That's not capitalism, it's using capitalist terms to describe a mediaeval social order.
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